TAMPA PALMS — Karen Birbeck is well aware that most people dread the thought of giving up their homes as they age.
So providing the best possible experience for those who do is a must at Connerton Court of New Tampa, said Birbeck, the executive director of the recently opened assisted-living facility at 14712 N. 42nd St.
The 80-bed complex — just off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard between Amberly Drive and Skipper Road — is a mix of 48 studio-sized and one- and two-bedroom apartments for residents requiring minimal care; eight extended-care dwellings for those in need of extended care; and a 24-unit secured memory care center serving residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The first floor of the three-story building contains a large lounging area complete with a wide-screen television, a resident dining room and a separate eating area for get-togethers with family and guests. There is also a library.
There is a chapel on the second floor and a gym on the third level.
It is an Extended Congregate Care-licensed facility, meaning it provides the highest level of nursing care, which, according to Birbeck, allows residents “to age in place.”
“In many other facilities, residents have to move out to receive the kind of care they need,” she said.
A similar Connerton Court assisted-living facility opened in Land O’ Lakes about two years ago. Ray Rairigh, president of Rairigh Construction Management Inc., is founder and owner of both businesses.
“When I first purchased the Land O’ Lakes property, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I felt like God put it on my heart to build a place for elderly people to spend the rest of their lives until God calls them home,” he said.
The Tampa native, who admitted to having a somewhat “checkered” past, said he is forever grateful to the Lord for setting him on the right track toward becoming a better person as well as a successful business owner. As a result, he believes it is his duty to give back.
“It’s not about wanting to make money on them but to make a positive impact on the lives of the elderly,” said the Lutz resident.
Birbeck and Rairigh share the same philosophy on how the residents should be regarded.
“We need to treat them like you would treat your mom and dad,” said Birbeck, who developed an affinity for seniors when, at age 16, she worked part-time as a certified nursing assistant in an assisted-living facility.
“A lot of these people’s families don’t come to visit and if they do it’s not very often. So we are their family,” she said. “They need to be reassured they are valued and loved.”
Rairigh said he couldn’t ask for more caring and dedicated employees to operate the business.
“I think all of them have their hearts in the right place,” he said.
Birbeck said it’s important that she and her staff, which includes a full-time nurse, operate as a team. When they have concerns, communication is crucial.
“None of us is better than the next guy,” she said.
Stan Pollack, who recently made Connerton Court of New Tampa his new home, senses that.
“I think the staff does a very good job and you won’t find a more beautiful place,” said Pollack, who is also appreciative that they are open to suggestions and they’ve already put two of his in place.
His first request was the gym and the other is serving an appetizer with each evening meal.
“It’s good because it draws the meal out a little,” Pollack said.
Robert “Bobby” Bennett, part owner of Angels Care Health Systems, is the facility’s property manager.
“We are a company that is truly passionate about caring for our elderly,” Bennett said. “We strive to not only add years to life, but also add life to years.”
The $1,500 community fee is being waived for new residents and there is a $500 reduction in apartment costs through Aug. 15.
Visit www.connertoncourt alf.com or call (813) 632-6370 for more information.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.